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Is beauty obsolete? Rewiring the matrix to shatter insecurities

Updated: Jun 24

Beauty may well indeed be in the eye of the beholder but, of course, any judgement always hinges on who the beholder is. The aesthetics of the flesh can attract approval - and, likewise, disapproval - for all sorts of uncanny reasons. Eyes as blue as de-icer, cheekbones more chiselled than a radiator cover, breasts so big they resemble a faulty batch of helium balloons that Trading Standards are poised to recall because some have popped. There are pros and cons to everything, and beauty is no exception. We naively assume that appearances are solely judged by our peers or those we seek to impress. Yet, our harshest critic is mostly… ourselves.

I say ‘mostly’ because very few of us trudge through life without at least once falling prey to a green eyed monster. Ugly drama as that may well be, it is the way of things. If you think that behind every jealous woman is a string of cruel, cheating men who made her that way, you are mistaken. Shakespeare recognised the epitome of insecurity as a character trait; sometimes a learned behaviour, but not always - as he demonstrated so well in Othello. In the main, though, we (not others) are the ones who stress over our every flaw. The pimples. The lines. The broken capillaries… We see them.

What we don’t see are the perverse tactics sometimes used to lure us into that sickening head space of self-loathing. Think of pre-done swatches made to look like they are being swiped across an arm before your very eyes, camera filters, AI generated non entities that don’t even exist and, the rarest of treasures, a ‘natural’ beauty. They are all merely illusions, created to make us spend money. Why? The answer is as complicated as diving into the topic of ‘is reality real?’. Supply and demand as a simpler explanation would do the subject a true disservice.

A woman's true reflection and an inset of what she want to look like

Vanity, beauty and cold, hard cash

If we want to get to the root of the evil, we have to consider this… Vanity dwells in even the most modest souls, lurking like the darkness waiting to engulf everything that we are. From the moment Eve recognised her reflection in a pool of water, women were doomed to be their own worst enemies. Crude forerunners of the modern mirror, including polished copper, went onto expose those pesky imperfections in much greater detail. Now we have the pinnacle of self-deprecation - the horrifying realities imposed on us by the magnification mirror. Not so much as the finest, shortest facial hair goes unnoticed these days.

While pride is one of the seven deadly sins, just about everyone is cursed by it. Yes, we can blame advertising, corporate greed, jealousy, but beauty brands and personal rivals aren’t really the ones at fault. We are. We all want to feel good, don't we? It's why we've allowed ourselves to be conditioned into assuming that what’s trending on Instagram or gracing the covers of fashion magazines is lighting a straighter path to that happier place. Only it might not be.

Ever bought a skin tint because some random YouTuber on the other side of the world swears it replicates the perfect tan? Been sucked into parting with more than you can comfortably afford for the newest eye lift serum because the results on a 30-second commercial reeled you in? Switched from liquid foundation to cream just because your best friend did? No? Well, I can say ‘yes’ to all of those questions and more. This is what I learned…

That skin tint that looked so naturally Beach Babe bronze online turned me a deeper shade of Fanta. The eye serum made my fine lines and crow’s feet vanish in almost an instant, but it left behind a crusty white residue that not even a Laura Geller Balance-n-Brighten could conceal. As for the cream foundation… It dried up in the pot before I even opened it. At the end of all that expense, I was no closer to achieving a more ‘perfect’ me. In fact, I was less perfect - and considerably less well off. 

A woman looking into an empty purse

Attempting to replicate an exact look rarely works. It’s quite horrific that cash is pushed across a germ-ridden counter - or swirled around the web - just for a moment of harsh realisation. Disappointment. I wonder, what pro trick did the serum brand use to avoid unsightly white streaks? Humans are not Viceroy butterflies, the poor creatures compelled to be copycats from the moment their wings flutter for the first time. Their attempt to resemble the less palatable Monarch is a matter of life and death. For us, it’s two things and neither relate to raw survival. Vanity and the desire to compete. Three, if you throw insecurity into the mix.

I truly believe one-upmanship has a lot to answer for when credit card bills land heavy on the doormat. It’s not enough to like ourselves; we want to look better than those around us. But, of course, we can’t possibly achieve that if we aren’t happy with what we see in the mirror. It all comes back to self-loathing and the never-ending search for the one product or hack that is going to make everything fall into place. Happiness. Admiration. Contentment.

Enter… Marketing campaigns. You can’t escape them. From your inbox to your letterbox, they are every which way we look. And this is where so many of us go wrong…

A beauty influencer holding a makeup brush to a cheek

Her beauty shouldn’t be your beauty - not exactly

Take Shonda, my imaginary friend. She’s totally stunning (touch of that green eyed monster!) and always on trend. If freshly pressed dock leaves became the latest fad in sleeping masks, rabbits would definitely go hungry. What if a full top knot was all the rage? I’d cringe  because, behind her cute fringe, Shonda’s got a well-hidden forehead that would surpass the humongous dimensions of Frankenstein’s. 

And this is where we are going off-grid. We want beauty products, especially makeup, to do for our faces what they do for the models and influencers promoting them. But there are so many caveats that just don’t appear to register when we’re chucking the money around. We need to be fanning ourselves down, taking deep breaths and totally pausing before making commitments. Especially of the financial kind.

Put aside the image trickery, look at the model wearing the style you want to copy. What shape is her face? What about the tone of her skin? What colour are her eyes? Look in a mirror and, for once, ignore your flaws. What shape is your face? What is your tone? What colour are your eyes?

A woman looking at her own reflection in a mirror

Now, ask yourself: Is that product really going to make me look exactly like her? No? What about the same product but in a different shade? Or a different product entirely but applied in the same or similar style? This season's hottest eye look could be a concoction of heatwave red and a dab of Lidl yellow, but it won’t elevate you in the slightest if you have blue eyes. The way in which the pressed pigments have been applied, however, well that’s an entirely different story. You’ve got options. Just not in a sunset theme.

We’re talking hypothetical here, but what about that gorgeously bright highlighter someone was showing off on TikTok. It looked blinging fab! The wannabe influencer wearing it had olive skin, shaded with all manner of complexion enhancers. Your face tone is paler than McDougalls' pre-sifted flour, you don’t own a truly blendable bronzer and your blush is somewhere but you seem to have temporarily mislaid it - is a strobe effect highlighter likely to suit you? Probably not, unless you fancy revising Edward Scissorhands with swipes of silver glitter all over the shop. 

Back to the mirror… So, what will work?

End self-loathing with tailored beauty

The secret to being content with how we look is not an enigma. Seeing, and recognising, our strengths, not our weaknesses, is the best place to start. If we can see our greatest features, they are the bits of us that we should use beauty products on to accentuate. The eyes. The lips. The very shape of a face… What do you like about yourself?

Try it. Take a closer look at your reflection and, this time, ignore the flaws. What do you see that isn’t that bad? If you can emphasise everything that’s good, those flaws that bring you down will diminish in importance. And, of course, they may only ever have been a concern to you because, as I say, we are our own biggest critics.

Hate your eyes? Emphasise your lips. Love your eyes but hate the hooded lids that frame them? Learn a trick to turn that around. You don’t have to copy a look down to every last detail to get what you want.

It is much easier to select cosmetics based on individual need, rather than what fashion dictates. That is why you should never be afraid to go your own way when developing an individual style; one that suits you, enhances your natural assets and makes you feel comfortable in your own skin. Choose shades that will complement your skin tone and eye colour, and match each look to what you plan to wear. 

Don’t fuss over brands. Hone in on products that you know, in your gut, will work for you. Accept your application limitations and choose products that will be easy to work with, produce the desired result - and not put you into overdraft territory. 

A confident woman

Learn to accept your flaws

Nobody is perfect. Nobody. Perfection, as I have attempted to explain, is an illusion; a convenience for money hungry dream pushers. It doesn’t exist.

It’s all about exploiting comfort zones and making what we love about ourselves the centre of our own personal beauty. That’s the key to being at peace with what we were born with. Contentment breeds confidence, you see. And confidence is what so many of us lack. Let's take an icon, say Marilyn Monroe. She is widely considered one of the most beautiful women to ever have walked the Earth. But she never saw herself as pretty. She only saw her flaws and focussed on them. It is why she took literally hours to prepare for every job and personal appearance. What if she could have zoned out on what made her unique?

Which leads me to… What if we could accept our vulnerabilities by focussing on our best features? We can, you know. And once we’ve mastered the art of only seeing the good, we can kiss goodbye to all those insecurities that made us hate ourselves, fret over others and stirred up the compulsion to compete.

You see, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder - if you understand that the most important beholder is you.

Beauty box review graphics



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